Cal women’s basketball snaps 3-game losing streak, edges USC 66-59

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Lorenzo Dela Cruz/File

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The Bears finally woke up from their winter sleep Sunday afternoon.

Cal women’s basketball earned its first win of the new year against USC, 66-59, at home, after losing three straight. The game marked the Bears’ first conference win of the 2018-19 season, bringing their Pac-12 record to 1-1.

A comfortable win on Sunday might be what kept Cal in AP Top 25 rankings at No. 24 with a drop of six seeds after the weekend.

On the other hand, with Sunday’s loss, USC has now lost all three of its conference games to begin conference play.

One minute and 40 seconds into the game, USC guard Desiree Caldwell, Cal guard Recee Caldwell’s little sister, gave the Trojans their first and only lead in the game, 3-2. That jumper inside the paint ended up as the only points for the freshman.

At the end of the first 20 minutes, both teams had similar shooting performances in the books. USC converted 42.3 percent of its attempts with four of eight 3-point shooting. Cal responded with 46.4 percent shooting from the field and sunk five of its 10 attempts behind the arc for a 36-29 lead.

The 7-point advantage heading to halftime came from a complete dominance on the boards. The Bears ended the half with 19 rebounds to the Trojans’ 11. A five-to-one advantage in offensive rebounds brought 7 points for Cal and none for USC.

Senior center Kristine Anigwe added another tally to her double-double streak with 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half alone. She finished the game with 21 points and 16 rebounds. With her Sunday performance, Anigwe now ranks No. 1 in the nation in rebounds per game with 13.9 and is the ninth-best scorer with 22.1 points per game.

The individual spotlight, however, was on USC guard Mariya Moore, who shined with a career-high 36 points, five rebounds and three assists. She played with 59.1 percent accuracy from the field and was lights out behind the arc, making a whopping seven of her 14 attempts. Her efforts, however, were not enough for a win at Haas Pavilion.

The second half started with the usual Cal dominance in the third quarter. The Bears started the quarter with a 15-4 run and increased the lead by as many as 18 points. The 15-point difference to start the last 10 minutes was enough of a cushion to prevent a Trojan comeback.

USC, though, gave its best effort to shock the Bears.

Cal couldn’t make any of its six 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter and only shot 23.1 percent from the field, displaying another example of the Bears occasional scoring droughts. USC, on the other hand, converted 41.2 percent from the field and cut the lead as few as 4 points with less than a minute to go.

With 20 seconds left in the game, however, the Bears sent Asha Thomas to the line, who is perhaps the last person USC would have wanted to see shooting free throws. Thomas, who is a career 82.6 percent free-throw shooter, made both attempts from the charity stripe to ice the game, giving Cal a much-needed win to get the Bears back on track.

With its five-game homestand now in the books, Cal will travel to the desert to face Arizona and Arizona State next weekend for its first conference road trip of the season.

Can Sariöz is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @can_sarioz.